Smiley Presents Los Angeles Circa ’03

by | Mar 27, 2007

That Little Round-Headed Boy looks critically at Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley’s Ten Days In The Hills.

According to his review on New Critics, Smiley’s novel concerns a group of Los Angelenos who, the day after the 2003 Oscars, gather in a film director’s spacious home and try to shield themselves from the Iraq war, even as raging debates break out among the characters.

The book is 449 pages, in really small type, and it sometimes gets lost in its tangents, but Smiley has a marvelous gift for creating characters with compelling flaws and for writing great gabs of free-flowing dialogue. It’s a book that may wear you out getting to the finish line, but it keeps pulling you forward nonetheless. It has the rounded pleasures of those old-fashioned pop blockbusters that weren’t afraid to lace a little intelligent dialogue and subtle characterization in between scenes of beautiful people having sex in gorgeously appointed homes.

The book begins with Max and his lover Elena, in bed, the morning after attending the Oscars. They are talking about the glamorous evening, and Michael Moore getting booed, and the war, and how Max wants to make a small movie of him and Elena that would do for the indie sex film what My Dinner With Andre did for the indie yapping-and-gnoshing film.

The most fascinating character to me is Elena, a woman who is obsessed with the Iraq War. I’ve met her type in real life, but never in fiction: the person who simply boils with righteous, unceasing hatred for the Bush administration and everything it stands for. What Smiley captures here, almost without you realizing it at first, is this notion of how people endure during dark ages.

Sounds good.